As people in many countries are forced to stay at home and avoid human contact, and children are unable to attend school, homeschooling is becoming increasingly relevant. The concept of conducting classes at home is certainly interesting and appealing, given the current state of things in the world, but it is not unambiguous. Education is a matter of utmost importance, and some parents might not have the qualifications to teach their children well. There is, however, significant potential in having full control of the curriculum, as it gives the chance to focus more on learning instead of passing tests. Socialization is also different for homeschooled students since they need to make more effort to meet new people. Finally, this method lets families raise their offspring in accordance with their own religious beliefs, which may have both positive and negative connotations. To sum up, homeschooling has the capacity to improve the quality of the knowledge gained, while reducing stress on the children, although it is not ideal for every family.
One of the most important points to consider when thinking about homeschooling is whether the specific parent or parents are qualified enough to maintain quality standards as high or higher than in public schools. As stated by Neuman, most of those who chose to teach their children at home are not satisfied with the education provided by traditional institutions (726). This is important because it appears to be the main reason why families chose to homeschool. However, not every parent who wishes to teach their child independently can do it. They would need to have the skills to motivate their sons or daughters to learn, which is especially difficult at young ages. They will certainly have to gain some experience before the homeschooling process can become efficient, perhaps they will even need to take teaching courses. Moreover, the parents will have to dedicate many hours to preparing material and planning the curriculum. As a consequence, they will not be able to work full time, which can both be financially challenging, and impede the development of their career.
While it is clear that homeschooler parents consider traditional education to be of insufficient quality, it is important to assess the results of their work and see whether their opinion is justified. When judging academic performance, most methods cater to school education, which is more focused on passing tests and succeeding in ways that are measurable and quantifiable. Homeschooling often has different goals; it aims to achieve a deeper understanding of the material, which can be challenging to verify. Still, Neuman and Guterman write that “studies clearly indicate that the academic achievements of children who are homeschooled exceed those of peers attending schools” (“Academic Achievements and Homeschooling” 2). This means that most families who decide that homeschooling would benefit them are correct. However, that does not mean that it would be the same for other families.
Public schools have pre-determined programs that severely limit the student’s choices, usually giving them several optional subjects and a fixed set of core disciplines. Neuman and Guterman note the deficiencies of traditional educational institutions, stating that they “focus on imparting knowledge rather than teaching high-order cognitive skills, and encourage uniform, standardized, inflexible learning” (“Different Solutions” 2). Homeschooling has substantially more ways to address these issues due to its unregulated nature. Since the parents plan the curriculum, they can make any changes required to accommodate the children’s needs perfectly. Unlike public schools, homeschooler parents do not have to provide comprehensive education that is supposed to let students choose their profession later in life. Instead, they can focus on the most promising direction from the start, giving other courses secondary roles.
While concentrating efforts on one area of study can bring impressive academic results, it also comes with significant risks. Choosing a career is often a challenge even for high school graduates, so doing it at the very beginning of one’s education is an extremely difficult task. Making the wrong decision at this pivotal moment will, at the very least, result in wasting several years, and could completely eliminate the child’s chances for a fulfilling future. Due to this possibility, it is recommended that parents avoid making this choice for their offspring. Instead, they are advised to adjust over time and keep the program flexible.
The rigid system of public schools is infamous for its subpar performance in regards to encouraging creativity and artistic skills. Neuman and Guterman included in their study a moving thought expressed by a parent of a talented child.
He is super creative, he draws at a very, very, very high level today, too. As soon as he started going to school everything disappeared. He hardly had any friends he stopped drawing, he stopped creating, he stopped being creative, he really was simply extinguished, and this [happened] right in front of our eyes. (“Different solutions” 7)
As devastating as this may sound, such cases are far from uncommon, as many gifted children require a special approach. Homeschooling can allow these children to develop their skills in a welcoming environment. The parents could include more art classes in the curriculum, perhaps at the expense of science or vice versa. There is a counterargument that neglecting traditional subjects in favor of more abstract ones is irresponsible and unlikely to lead to success. While it is true that artists tend to have more difficulties finding a job, when they do, they could easily afford a comfortable living.
Without attending classes, homeschooled children do not spend nearly as much time socializing with their peers as other children of the same age. Kunzman mentions that despite being mostly satisfied with their position, “homeschoolers occasionally express a greater sense of social isolation and appear less peer-oriented than public school students” (“Homeschooler Socialization” 137). From this point of view, homeschooling certainly seems inferior to traditional education. Even if the adults at home spend enough time with the children, they can still feel the natural need to play with other children. A valid objection to this statement is that homeschoolers can socialize when others come home from class. This is true, although one must keep in mind that these opportunities are limited by the time other children have to spend doing their homework – something that homeschoolers normally do not deal with.
The question that homeschooling opponents may forget to ask is whether spending time with peers is, in fact, a necessary part of every child’s life. According to Kunzman, “a lower dependence on peer relationships may have some positive benefits, such as less concern about social status” (“Homeschooler Socialization” 137). It seems that, contrary to public concerns, communicating less with other children may be beneficial. Homeschooling also tends to promote closer and healthier relationships within the family, which is vital for the child’s development and mental health. Some may say that growing up in the company of the same small group of adults can lead to the person having weak social skills and facing difficulties integrating into society. Fortunately, this is not the case, as these children show more mature and balanced behavior than their non-homeschooled peers, which makes transitioning to adult life a much easier experience.
Religious education is a sensitive issue for many families, and not all schools can accommodate the needs of some believers. Kunzman claims that “religious conservatives likely remain the largest subset of homeschoolers, at least in the United States,” which is not surprising, with the level of secularization in modern schools (“Homeschooling and Religious Fundamentalism” 18). This means that freedom of religion is crucial to homeschooler parents, which has a wide range of implications. On the surface, this is not an issue, as these people are doing nothing more than using their rights as citizens of a free country. However, as they are in full control of their child’s awareness of religions other than theirs, they could deprive them of their chance to choose their beliefs. It is possible to argue that a similar situation could occur in a non-homeschooler family, as many children are introduced to their parent’s religion at a very young age. Before these children come to school, they have already been taught certain views and traditions and are unlikely to choose a different religion when they learn about it.
Is seems that maintaining the children’s freedom of religion is a responsibility of the parent regardless of the education system. However, attending classes can still affect one’s upbringing, even if it cannot change it completely. In school, students have to abide by a strict set of rules and maintain a certain dress code, which is different from what they were accustomed to at home. Although the aim of these regulations is different, they do show people that they can live differently. However, while rules are necessary, it is more important to respect every person and never force them to do something that contradicts their beliefs. If a students religion requires them to wear something or perform daily rituals, they should be allowed to do so, as long as they do not encumber others, which is not a problem for homeschoolers.
The final and most dangerous issue with religion and homeschooling is religious extremism. Kunzman mentions ideological amplification – the process of “like-minded group members pushing one another toward more extreme versions of their already-held beliefs” (“Homeschooling and Religious Fundamentalism” 26). This phenomenon could arise in a religious family that teaches their child at home. If the parents are already prone to extreme views, their offspring can be even more so. Furthermore, as many children want to impress their parents, a kid who was reading religious literature given to him by his parents might take inspiration from it. Most religions promote peaceful ways and fair treatment of other people, however, there are certain things that a child can misunderstand as a call to do something unspeakable.
To conclude, homeschooling has a vast list of benefits ranging from a higher quality of education to more flexible curriculums and even possible mental health benefits. In spite of that, it is not suitable for every family, as not all parents have the time and the skill required to teach their children well. Still, it is a great concept that should be considered by more people.
Kunzman, Robert. “Homeschooler Socialization.” The Wiley Handbook of Home Education, edited by Milton Gaither, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016, pp. 135-156.
Kunzman, Robert. “Homeschooling and Religious Fundamentalism.” International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, vol. 3, no. 1, 2017, pp. 17-28.
Neuman, Ari. “Criticism and Education: Dissatisfaction of Parents Who Homeschool and Those Who Send Their Children to School with the Education System.” Educational Studies, vol. 45, no. 6, 2019, pp. 726-741.
Neuman, Ari, and Guterman Oz. “Academic Achievements and Homeschooling — It All Depends on the Goals.” Studies in Educational Evaluation, vol. 51, 2016, pp. 1-6.
Neuman, Ari, and Guterman Oz. “Different Solutions to Similar Problems: Parents’ Reasons for Choosing to Homeschool and Social Criticism of the Education System.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2020, pp. 1-18.